In August, Hospicare welcomed two new individuals to the Development & Community Relations team. Jennnifer Gabriel is the new Director of Development & Community Relations, and Barry Miller is the Database Coordinator and Development Coordinator.
A native of the Ithaca area, Jen brings 20 years of fundraising and communications experience to Hospicare. She graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in news & editorial journalism from Boston University, and began her professional career as a press assistant and speechwriter for Boston’s Mayor Thomas M. Menino. Jen has also held leadership-level positions at several organizations, including the National Sports Center for the Disabled (Winter Park, CO), the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless (Boulder, CO), and Children’s Hospital and Research Center Foundation (Oakland, CA). For the past nine years, she worked in Ithaca College’s advancement office, specializing in leadership, major and planned giving.
Jen’s connections to Hospicare began in 2010, the first year she volunteered as a kayaker for Women Swimmin’. In her spare time, she and husband Scott work on the 1836 Methodist-Episcopal church they call home and enjoy spending as much time outdoors as possible.
Barry comes to Hospicare with many years of computer-related experience, including database design and management, proprietary software implementation, web development, and content management. He is also a writer and editor, having served as production editor with the Ecological Society of America, data manager and reporting specialist with the Alaska Cooperative Extension Service, and editorial assistant with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute. In his spare time, Barry enjoys preforming with various local blues and alternative rock groups.
Jen and Barry join Johanna Zussman-Dobbins, who continues to serve as the Communications & Outreach Manager. Together with an Events Coordinator to be hired later this year and the support of many staff and volunteers, the Development & Community Relations team is poised to increase awareness and philanthropic support of critical programs that provide hospice and palliative care services, as well as grief and support services, to all members of our community.
Each year, on an evening in early June, the grounds of the Nina K. Miller Hospicare Center on Ithaca’s South Hill glow with light. Visitors stroll our garden paths, which are lined with 300 luminarias, many dedicated to someone who has died. As the evening concludes a lighted canoe glides across our pond while a trumpeter plays “Taps,” and all who are in attendance pause to remember someone they love. This is Hospicare’s spring community memorial event: Illuminations.
This year’s Illuminations event will be held on Thursday, June 7. A reception and luminaria lighting begin at 7:30 p.m. A special program of remembrance starts at 8:00 p.m. Illuminations is held rain or shine. In case of inclement weather, the program moves indoors to the Hospicare Great Room. The event is open to the public. There is no cost to attend, although luminarias can be personalized for a suggested donation of $25. (Donations are greatly appreciated, but not required.)
If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, whether the death was recent or many years ago, and regardless of whether your loved one died on hospice services, we invite you to join us. Come experience the peace and beauty of the Hospicare gardens. Light a luminaria in memory or in honor of a loved one. Most importantly, share in the sense of community with others who are also grieving a loss.
If you would like to join us or make a contribution to have a luminaria lit in memory of someone you love, please RSVP online.
Registration for Lake Swimmers for Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare starts bright and early, 6:00 a.m. on Monday, May 7. Are you ready? Lake Swimmer registration fills very quickly so set your alarms!
To get ready for registration day check out our website www.womenswimmin.org. This year Women Swimmin’ registration options include: Register as an Individual, Form a Team, and Join a Team. Please choose the Registration type that suits you, and if you’re not sure, don’t worry! If you register as an individual and later decide to form or join a team that can be accomplished from within your Participant Center. If you participated last year please use the same username and password. These were sent to you via email on April 8.
You’ll be asked to enter specific information, including:
Your date of birth (all swimmers must be at least 18 years old on the date of the swim)
The name and phone number for an emergency contact (someone who will be on land and reachable the morning of Aug 11)
All participants must have a unique email address to register for Women Swimmin’. If you plan to register multiple participants please make sure that you have an email address for each before you get started.
Whether you need special accommodation to complete the swim (for example, needing to use a snorkel, or if you can’t wear a latex swim cap)
If you want to swim with specific swimmers and/or be escorted by a particular boater
Information about how fast you think you’ll swim
Why you’re swimmin’ for Hospicare. We love hearing the reasons women choose to do the swim! We recommend you compose an answer before you register (you can also update this field after you register) so you can cut and paste it into the box on the registration form.
There is a non-refundable $25 registration fee for swimmers which goes toward your $200 fundraising minimum. If you are not one of the first 350 Lake Swimmers to register, you can still have a chance to swim- we will register 30 Wait List Swimmers. In past years, we have been able to offer a swim day spot to each woman on the wait list!
Important Note: The online registration process works best from the standard version of the website. Some swimmers have had trouble registering from their phone or tablet. We strongly recommend you register from a laptop or computer.
Should my elderly family member stay in her own apartment?
When I told our Hospicare social worker how much money remained in Virginia’s accounts, she advised me to consider a move.
“You need to deal with this,” she said. “If a patient is already on Medicaid rather than private pay, nursing home placement is more difficult. You may not get to choose the place you want.”
I was grateful to know, but unhappy about the tasks ahead. I didn’t want to gather and organize five years of financial records for Medicaid application. I didn’t want to clean out Virginia’s apartment and deal with her possessions. I didn’t want to upset Virginia by moving her out of her apartment where she had 24-hour private care.
While dealing with Virginia’s day-to-day needs, I’d avoided making definite plans for her future. I hadn’t imagined she would outlive her funds, but she turned 102 in January. We couldn’t continue on the same path because we couldn’t pay for it. Virginia would need Medicaid support by early summer. I learned that having money to pay for private care for even a few months gave us better choices, so I knew it was time to move.
Making a Move
I talked with our Hospicare social worker on Tuesday, talked to the nursing home social worker on the phone on Wednesday, had application forms sent by email and filled out by Friday when I visited the nursing home. The nursing home social worker said a rehab patient would leave on Monday, so they had a bed available for a private pay patient. She had no idea when they’d be able to accept another patient since the facility is small.
I decided it would lessen the pain to give the health aides severance pay and move quickly. With my head spinning, I said yes to the inevitable.
Hospicare Support during and after the Move
The first issue was how to move Virginia physically. Our hospice social worker told me Hospicare would arrange a wheelchair transport with Bang’s Ambulance Services. On Monday morning, the ambulance driver arrived. With me carrying clothing and personal items and a good friend with us for support, Virginia and I entered her new world.
A Hospicare nurse continued weekly visits at the nursing home. Virginia received visits from the same volunteer who brought her therapy dog along. I hired Virginia’s main health aide from her old residence to visit, and I visited often. With daily support, Virginia made the transition fairly easily. Maybe short-term memory loss helped.
Getting Help with Medicaid Applications and More
After moving Virginia, I hired her previous health aide to empty and clean her apartment. I also got help from my son and a few of his friends. One step at a time and a few weeks later, we handed in the keys and left Virginia’s old life behind.
At the same time, I changed Virginia’s mailing address, cancelled her phone and cable service, and transferred her investments to one easy to access account. The nursing home suggested a Medicaid adviser who works with their patients. After an email conversation in early March, I gathered the needed information. In a few weeks with Hospicare helping me over the bumps, I had most of the needed information and knew the rest was on the way.
Should I Talk with Virginia about her Son’s Death?
Although Virginia first refused to talk to the Hospicare spiritual advisor, I convinced her to give it a chance. This wonderful counselor asked Virginia if she would talk to a priest. Virginia said yes. After ten years of being angry that her God didn’t save her son from cancer, Virginia began making peace with her spiritual roots.
The Hospicare physician advised our family to speak to Virginia openly about her son’s death since the dying often wait for someone they love so they can say goodbye. With a little prompting and some tears, Virginia began talking about her only child’s death. Her grief surfaced without the anger she’d expressed in the past. Even at 102, a new perspective came in about mortality. After asking about her son and others who had died, she said, “We live and then we die.” She repeated this phrase many times.
“It’s such shame,” she said. “I loved him with all my heart.” After that first breakthrough, Virginia continued to ask, “Where’s Vic?” We repeated the conversation as she made peace with the most crushing loss of her life.
In six weeks, we’d made necessary moves with the minimum of upset for Virginia. I’d worked hard, but those steps had to happen sooner or later. Virginia was in a kind and safe residence where it’s easy for me to visit. With Hospicare advisors, we had constant support through this transition. Not just support for Virginia, but support for me.
Virginia continues her slow decline with some weight loss and more sleeping. As you might imagine, I’m sleeping better, too.
I wasn’t surprised my mother-in-law Virginia wasn’t eligible to be a hospice patient despite her age (101), blindness, and frequent falls. She had no life-limiting diagnosis and no weight loss. She still enjoyed pancakes and pasta. Even though she wasn’t accepted as a patient, the Hospicare nurse who did the evaluation had a reassuring conversation with Virginia’s main health aide and me about managing Virginia’s symptoms.
We also registered Virginia in PATH (Palliative Approach to Health). The nurse who evaluated her promised to assist when needed. Now I had someone to call when we needed help.
A few months later, Virginia experienced shortness of breath. Her (privately hired) health aide called Virginia’s doctor who recommended the ER. After eight hours of exhausting tests, they found amazing health for a woman of 101. Strong regular heart, lungs with a little extra fluid, memory loss but alert, nothing life-threatening.
The cause of the breathing problem? Probably anxiety.
Our PATH nurse came for a second Palliative Care consultation after that day in the hospital. She recommended that Virginia try a medicine that the doctor had already prescribed before taking Virginia to the ER. She also recommended we ask the doctor for a community Visiting Nurse so we had more help monitoring Virginia’s health.
Because of these PATH recommendations, the doctor ordered a weekly visiting nurse. Because of our discussions with the Palliative Care team, everyone involved had shared goals: No hospitals. No unnecessary medical tests. Make Virginia comfortable and happy. Cook pasta.
After the visiting community nurse joined our team, things were quiet for a few months, but in time Virginia had a new breathing problem. The palliative care nurse returned to re-evaluate and because of shortness of breath and other cardiac symptoms, Virginia became a hospice patient.
Because the nurse already knew Virginia and her health information, the transition to hospice was seamless. Within days, we had a social worker, spiritual care coordinator, hospice aides as needed, a weekly visit from the hospice nurse, and a volunteer who brought Italian pastry and spoke Italian, Virginia’s childhood language.
With all this loving support, Virginia’s lungs cleared. It’s true. Becoming a hospice patient prolongs life. I knew Virginia would remain on service for three months before the next evaluation. During those months, I grappled with the long-term issues of Virginia’s life, things that felt too difficult to face on my own. Information and support poured in.
Could we eliminate some of the medication that had accumulated over the years? Was it helping her or making her sicker? Conferring with Virginia’s doctor, the hospice nurse lowered her prescription drug load. Her breathing improved.
Was it good to keep her in her apartment or should I move her while she still had a little money left for private pay at a nursing home of our choice? When should I apply for Medicaid?
Should I try to re-connect Virginia with her religious roots because I hoped it would comfort her and help her accept her son’s death? After his death ten years ago, she had refused to see a priest because she was angry that her faith hadn’t protected her from loss.
Should I talk to Virginia more about her son’s death to make sure she wasn’t waiting for him to say goodbye? Or should we avoid discussing this because it upset her?
How about me? I was exhausted with caregiving. Hospicare considered my needs along with Virginia’s. They watched out for me, too.
We had decisions to make. We were depleting Virginia’s savings to pay for 24-hour health aides. We needed a long-term plan. With the support of a terrific social worker and nurse, information flowed in. My sons and I discussed what to do now that Virginia seemed to be getting stronger even though she would always need 24-hour care. We needed to protect her and also protect me. Hospice held our hand every step of the way.
In a later article, I’ll let you know what changes we made and how our situation unfolded.
I’ve been responsible for three people as they approached the end of life. My mother, my husband, and now my mother-in-law. Each time, I learn new ways to help.
My mother died of Alzheimer’s Disease in an excellent nursing home in 2007. Decisions were easy. No hospitalization. Care for her tenderly and wait.
My husband Vic was diagnosed with incurable cancer in 2006. Oncology, that most heroic of medical disciplines, didn’t leave space for Hospice during treatment phase. Vic’s oncologist didn’t mention Hospice as a possibility until his last week of life. Looking back, I wish I’d known more and asked more questions.
I later learned there was a Palliative Care Program at Strong Hospital in Rochester where Vic was treated. It had been serving patients for many years, but no one mentioned it in the two years he was sick. I didn’t know enough to ask.
His symptoms demanded treatment that insurance classified as seeking a cure. In truth, it was clear from the start there would be no cure. For months his treatment was drugs used to reduce inflammation and swelling. We focused on symptom relief (palliative care) but didn’t have a clear plan or the expert advice we needed.
I think of the many times I called the hospital because of a breathing crisis or an erratic heartbeat. They always told me to take Vic to the nearest emergency room. I wish I’d known a better way.
I talked to social workers at the hospital and Vic had excellent support for symptom relief from our local internist, but a Palliative Care consultation would have helped us understand and discuss our options. It would have relieved the stress of making decisions we didn’t know how to make.
Without Palliative Care, well-meaning oncologists focused on one more experimental treatment until Vic said “No.” Experimental chemotherapies caused unnecessary suffering and no relief. We had hospice support Vic’s last three days. Too little. Much too late.
I became a Hospicare volunteer in 2009, a year after Vic’s death. From that vantage point, I knew what we missed by not having hospice palliative care support early on. In recent years, the Hospicare PATH Program became an option for patients and families. I’m amazed how few people know about it.
PATH stands for Palliative Approach to Health. It’s available for anyone facing end of life issues. PATH doesn’t provide hospice services or medical care, but it offers invaluable consultations and evaluations.
The PATH consent form says, “I understand that PATH is a supportive coaching program, not a medical care program.” A good coach would have made a world of difference.
My third example is my mother-in-law who turned 102 in January 2018. As I’ve said before, I learned that “til death do us part” included my partner’s mother. Forgetful, incontinent, and falling even with a walker, she was fearful and unsafe when left alone. A few years ago, I hired 24-hour-health aides in her apartment in McGraw House. I also had support from McGraw House’s social worker.
My mother-in-law’s health aides and I weren’t trained to make decisions when there was a crisis such as a hard fall or breathing trouble. The doctor’s office always recommended the ER. I’d been through that before with my husband. The ER wasn’t what anyone wanted. This time I sought better choices.
About six months ago, at my request, my mother-in-law’s doctor ordered a Palliative Care Consultation with Hospicare. I didn’t think she was ready for hospice service then, but I knew we could get helpful and wise advice from a Palliative Care Team. A huge weight of responsibility lifted from my shoulders knowing I had knowledgeable people to guide me and help me protect my mother-in-law during her last years.
You may not know about the PATH program. I didn’t, but it’s not complicated. Patients and caregivers need to know every option so they know what to suggest to their hurried and over-booked doctors. We need to know what PATH offers a patient and family before the patient needs to be actively on hospice.
Next month, I’ll share more of our experience on the PATH program and how much it helped when my mother-in-law became a hospice patient.
When we heard the news of Bill’s condition it felt like my world was coming to a complete end…Life had no meaning…I kept asking, “Why?” We had so many plans for the future and now to be told this.
Hospice was brought up and explained to me how Bill could be at home with his family and not be in a hospital. We were also told that there would be someone to help us, just a phone call away whenever we needed it, even if our family needed it. Our Hospice nurse came often to check on Bill’s condition and would show us what had to be done and how to make him comfortable. She explained how to handle certain situations that might arise as it became closer to the end.
Hospice encouraged me to talk to him about what he wanted me to do with our farm and the people I should contact. This was something I needed to know.
Our nurse came at a moments notice if I needed her. She would arrive when tears were streaming down our faces and would have us smiling and talking about the good times all of us shared and memories we would never forget. She was our “Special Angel” and someone I trusted and who would listen when we really needed to talk.
Even when Bill was in a coma she told us to talk to him and tell stories that were important to us. Our nurse said he could hear us and I truly believe he did.
I never thought twice about calling in the middle of the night if there was a turn for the worse and if I was scared that I might do something wrong.
One of the hardest things I ever did in my life, that our Hospice nurse was very emphatic about telling me, was to let him know that I was going to be okay. Only hours after I did that, Bill died that night.
At that point I called Hospice and they came and took care of everything.
I wish everyone in our community would think about having Hospice if they have a love one in the final stages of life. The nurses and volunteers are there for you. To be at home with your family and things around you that you love is so important.
Shortly after the funeral Hospice contacted me to see how I was doing and suggested a volunteer would be in touch me that I could talk to. I did go out to dinner with her and after that she kept in touch with me.
I am so thankful for the doctor that put me in touch with Hospice at the time when our family needed it the most. As a board member of the Hospice Foundation of Cortland County, and as a family member of someone on service, I realize how important Hospice is and what wonderful things are being done.
Gail VanPatten served on the Board of the Hopsice Foundation of Cortland County. She wants everyone to know about the help and comfort that is available to them through Hospicare. She is pictured here, on the far right, with current members of the Hospice Foundation of Cortland County.
We at Hospicare can’t begin to thank you enough for your support. We are empowered by you to make a difference in all our home towns across Tompkins and Cortland counties and we are so grateful.
During the holiday season and throughout 2017, you showed compassion for people with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones, as they faced the end of their lives. Our goal is always to alleviate suffering and manage symptoms. There have been great advances in pain and symptom control in the past few years. Patients feel better with good pain and symptom management. Hospicare does nothing to speed up or slow down the dying process. Our role is to lend support and allow the disease process to unfold as comfortably as possible.
Hospicare is an experience of care and support different from any other type of care. The hospice residence — first in New York State – was created in the 1980’s to offer a homelike environment and a primary source of ongoing care to terminally ill patients who would not otherwise have that, and regardless of their circumstances or ability to pay.
Your kindness and gifts have helped to cover some of the costs of these patients’ care that insurance does not cover such as some medications and equipment; and the “room and board” aspect of their care.
Our integrative medicine and palliative arts use a holistic approach that combines conventional medicine and complementary practices that bring relief and serenity for our patients wherever they live.
At Hospicare our team of expert clinicians and specially-trained palliative arts volunteers blends the best of all treatment and modalities in a soothing, caring environment. They focus on balancing overall wellness – body, mind and spirit – and improving quality of life. Volunteers also may serve and comfort patients in their homes, long-term care facilities or the residence and can include mind-body practices, breath work and guided imagery, licensed massage therapy and Reiki, live or recorded music, aromatherapy and pet visits.
Our successes are about helping people live fully. We encourage patients and their families to do what they enjoy as they are able and allow families to rest so that they can give 100% love and affection to their loved one. The Hospicare team assists patients and families in achieving their goals and dreams as much as possible.
We provide grief counseling to the whole family for a full year after death of a loved one on Hospicare services and beyond, as well, when requested. We offer bereavement services to the communities we serve as well, regardless of where their loved one died—bereavement counseling may not be covered by insurances.
Caring for the dying is a partnership with the community. Hospicare trains and supports local volunteers who offer comfort and practical support to patients and families living in their homes or in the Hospicare residence— such as respite for caregivers, grocery shopping, meal preparation, childcare, pet care, companionship, reading and so much more. None of this compassionate care is covered by insurance.
Your gifts and support ensure that we can offer the best possible care for people who are dying. Across Tompkins and Cortland counties, you helped us to make a meaningful difference in the quality of life of people at the end of their life—alleviating pain and fear.
There is still so much work to be done to raise awareness of the benefits of early referral to palliative and hospice care. Lack of awareness of hospice means too many people still die alone or in pain. Too many people are being referred to Hospicare too late or not at all, not affording them the time and opportunity to live out the remainder of their lives supported and comforted in so many ways. And too many families are left without bereavement support. However, because of your support at the end of the year and throughout 2017, we are well-positioned to provide best possible care and assistance to hundreds of families in the area. We know that without your generosity, and determination to help Hospicare, that we would not be able to offer the special, personal and compassionate care we provide to the people who need our help.
As this year progresses, we will make sure to keep you abreast on how your support is helping. We will also keep you informed about news and events at Hospicare.
Thank you again for your commitment to compassionate end of life care in this coming year.
Wishing you and yours a Happy New Year,
From all of us at Hospicare and Palliative Care Services
We made it through the holidays and the darkest days, but this winter we’ve faced unrelenting cold in the northeast. With an empty chair at the table or a person we love who is fragile and ill, cold weather can be as confining and discouraging as the dark.
Limited daylight brings a threat of Seasonal Affective Disorder to everyone, but it can add to the depressive effects of grief. Social gatherings evaporate as the flu spreads. Taking the dog or yourself for a walk or getting outside to shovel requires major will power. Avoiding the cold means staying home and not seeing friends. It might mean being alone when you’d rather have company. It might mean being shut in by yourself when you’re ill or sad.
So how do we survive these cold dark days? I hope some of these ideas help or encourage you to imagine your own solutions.
Read an uplifting novel: Ask a friend or librarian for a recommendation. A good book is a way to travel in time, in space, or in the imagination. A mini-holiday.
Join a hospice bereavement group or talk to a counselor about the challenges you face. They’ve heard it all and can help you survive the roughest times. Maybe you aren’t sure you want to expose your feelings to others. I felt like that until I attended my first bereavement group with other widowed women. We had so much to share and so much to give each other. Our group became a supportive sisterhood.
Bring flowers into your daily life–bright blossoms that make you smile. An $8 bouquet from a grocery store can bring color to your life for a few weeks.
For more color, set up a jigsaw puzzle on a card table for those long dark evenings. Handcrafts, needlework, watercolors, or a painting class can bring unexpected joy and renewal. Or get a birdfeeder and enjoy cardinals and blue jays. Color energizes us in this white and brown season.
Pile on the layers and spend time outside. Being outside midday even for a short time lifts Seasonal Affective Disorder blues and soothes “cabin fever.”
Call a friend who understands you’re struggling and invite them to join you for coffee or even a walk in a shopping mall. Or just talk. No, you aren’t a drag. Yes, they want to be with you even if you’re sad. If you’d rather be alone, that’s OK, too.
Listen to music and move. Sway to classical or rock favorites or find an exercise video on Youtube. Sometimes gentle movement works well to improve our mood. Qigong (chi gung) is a possibility or yoga (chair yoga if you have trouble walking or balancing). Any movement is good movement.
Create supportive ritual. It doesn’t need to be elaborate. Light a candle dedicated to the person you love whether they’re sick or have died. Say their name. Let the tears flow if they need to. Don’t forget to light a candle dedicated to your own well-being.
Some people like to travel, but for others traveling brings its own challenges, even with friends. If you’re a caregiver or a patient, you might not have freedom to travel. Experiment with short trips to a local museum (More color!). If you’re grieving and can travel, some people need to get away. Others need to stick close to home to feel safe and supported.
Ask a friend to join you for a movie or concert or a Netflix evening at your house. Sometimes the silliest Marx Brothers movie is just what’s needed. Laughter is good medicine.
Notice life’s small kindnesses and pleasures—a cardinal at the birdfeeder, a cup of warm tea, a sweet card from a friend, a beautiful photograph. Spring will come, and although grief or caregiver woes won’t magically disappear, Seasonal Affective Disorder and the cold will recede. Longer days and warmer temperatures promise renewal, hope, and positive energy. It won’t be long.
by Eric Minghella Outreach Specialist Disability Benefits
As we are faced with life-limiting illnesses, our incomes are often affected, and the last thing on our mind should be financial strain. Many of us may not know that if you or someone you love has been diagnosed with a serious illness there may be resources available for you. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers disability benefits for individuals and their eligible dependents.
If you are already in Hospicare’s services, you’ll almost certainly medically qualify for disability benefits.
Every form of cancer that has spread to another organ will automatically medically qualify. Some types of cancer, such as liver or esophageal cancer, will qualify with just a diagnosis. Other conditions like ALS or early-onset Alzheimer’s disease will also qualify with a diagnosis.
In fact, it’s likely that your claim could be approved in two weeks or less. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers monthly financial aid for people with severe disabilities that prevent them from working. In fact, your family might be eligible for additional benefits on your behalf.
It’s important to note that Social Security disability benefits are awarded to people who are not old enough to retire. If you’re already receiving retirement benefits from the SSA, you wouldn’t be able to receive additional benefits due to a new illness.
If you’re receiving Hospicare services, you already meet the SSA’s “definition of disability,” which state that Social Security benefits are available for people with a serious illness that prevents them from working for at least 12 months, or is terminal. Some common conditions that always qualify include:
Advanced or aggressive cancer, such as cancer that’s present in more than one organ
The SSA will contact your healthcare provider to confirm your diagnosis—all you’ll need to do is list where you’ve received treatments.
Eligible Family Members
Some family members can receive benefits on your behalf as well. These are paid in addition to your monthly benefits. Additional benefits for family members are known as auxiliary benefits. Family members eligible for auxiliary benefits include
Your children* under age 18
A spouse over age 62
A spouse of any age caring for your child under age 16
In the event of your death, your family members will be eligible for survivors’ benefits. The relatives who are eligible for survivors’ benefits include:
Children under age 18
A spouse over age 60, but only if you were married for 10 years
Any spouse caring for a child under age 16
Your parents if they were “dependent” on your care, meaning you paid for at least 50% of their living needs
Eligibility may change throughout time. For example, your spouse will be eligible for either survivors’ or auxiliary benefits until your children turn 16. At that point your spouse will no longer receive benefits, but he or she could receive benefits again at age 60.
Keep in mind that a family’s total monthly payments cannot exceed 180% of what your monthly entitlement is. Your monthly payments might change slightly as children turn 18 and become ineligible.
Starting Your Social Security Application
You can apply for Social Security benefits online. As mentioned previously, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will gather your medical records on your behalf, so you will not need to mail in any paperwork when filing online.
The alternative option would be to file in person at your closest Social Security office. There are 1,300+ offices located across the country. To apply with a Social Security representative, simply call the SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213.
Most people on Hospicare services have clearly disabling conditions and their applications will be accelerated automatically. If you have advanced cancer or another condition requiring hospice services, you should hear back from the SSA in a matter of weeks. Once approved, your benefits can be spent on any hospice expenses, medical bills, medication costs, rent or a mortgage, transportation or housing arrangements for your family, or any other daily living needs.